It’s not often that a studio buys a license to do a show based on a foreign cartoon, but it happens. One of the more famous instances is The Smurfs, a Belgian cartoon that got turned into a Saturday Morning show for American television by Hanna-Barbera. And while rare, even Japan did this. One of them is Calimero.
Calimero is an Italian character created by brothers Nino and Toni Pagot. He first appeared in 1963 in a commercial that was broadcast as part of Carosello, a Italian advertisement show that aired on RAI from 1957 to 1977 (see embed below). The character proved to be popular enough to be spun-off into a series of shorts that aired in Italy and other countries.
Calimero is a black, baby chick who wears an eggshell on his head as a hat. A typical cartoon features Calimero trying to help an adult with their problems, only to make it worse instead. The cartoons would end with the adult telling him to go away, causing Calimero to sulk as he walks away. Another formula would feature a bad guy trying to trick Calimero into doing a bad deed for them, but the chick’s misunderstanding and naivety would only expose the villain’s plan instead, leading everyone to declare Calimero a hero.
Other characters include his mother and father; Priscilla, a girl chick whom Calimero has a crush on; Peter, a bully duckling who likes to play mean pranks on Calimero; Buta, a piglet, sidekick to Peter; and Mr. Owl, Calimero’s teacher.
The shorts seemed to have done well enough worldwide. Eventually it grabbed attention of K&S, a Japanese company who bought the license to the character. However, rather than just dub the Italian shorts, they decided to have new episodes created for Japan. K&S contracted Toei Animation to create new Calimero episodes for them to distribute.
The anime version of Calimero began airing on October 15, 1974, through the NET network. Originally it aired on Tuesdays at 7:30 pm, but starting April 1, 1975, the show moved half-hour early to 7 pm, where it remained until it was cancelled in the following September. 47 half-hour shows, most of which are split to two segments, were made.
カリメロ OP ED 【HD】 by Gokokuji-Kuro
The anime tried to present the original shorts by a way of splicing the Italian animation somewhere in the main episode animated in Japan whenever possible, somehow tied to the main story written by Japanese writers. However, this only illustrates the differences the original shorts have with the anime: the Japanese animation have much lower frame-rate and slower timing compared to the frantic timing the Italian shorts have.
As hard as it is to believe, a second Japanese series was made years later. This version aired on TV Tokyo from October 15, 1992 to September 9, 1993, airing on Thursdays at 7 PM, produced by Telescreen. 52 episodes were made. The newer show tried to be more modern to the 1990s-era children’s audience. In addition to giving a red vest for Calimero, new characters were added, such as Valeriano, a green chick who skateboards; Rosita, a bespectacled girl chick; and Susy, a girl duckling who has a crush on Peter.
After that, the property laid to rest in Japan. Calimero is still well-remembered in Italy, and both the original shorts and the Japanese shows are still rerun over there and in other countries. Recently, French-based Gaumont Animation signed a deal to produce 104 Calimero cartoons in CGI (trailer embed below).